Cronulla High School students lend a hand to bushfire-affected area

Twelve students from Cronulla High School recently travelled to the NSW Snowy Valley to help the community get back on its feet after last year's bushfires.

The students were among those taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh International Award's gold level program.

They chose to give up some of their school holidays to travel to Adelong in the Snowy Valley, to volunteer with BlazeAid - a volunteer-based organisation that works with families and individuals in rural Australia after natural disasters such as fires and floods.

Volunteers work alongside rural families to rebuild fences and other structures that have been damaged or destroyed.

The trip was meant to take place in April 2020, however was postponed due to COVID-19.

Cronulla High School's Duke of Edinburgh co-ordinator Craig Chantler and another teacher Ann-Marie Barber, travelled with the group.

"Large parts of the Snowy Valley were wiped out in last year's fires and 15 months later they are still trying to recover," Mr Chantler said.

"During the six-day trip, the Cronulla High School students gained many skills and memories that will last a lifetime.

"Seeing the large amount of area that was burnt in last year's fires, along with hearing many of the stories from the locals, most of whom lost everything, really put things into perspective.

"Whilst the work was hard and the nights were very cold, the satisfaction our students gained from the event had them trying to convince us to stay longer on the last night.

"Many of the students who attended are now talking about arranging another trip next holidays to continue to help where needed with BlazeAid."

The Duke of Edinburgh Award is a leading youth development program aimed at young people aged 14-24.

It encouraged young people to explore their full potential and find their purpose, passion and place in the world, regardless of their location or circumstance.

Many schools run the programs as an extra-curricular activity. It has three levels - bronze, silver and gold.

It was started by the Duke Edinburgh, Prince Philip, in the UK in 1956 and is now offered in more than 140 countries.

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